Tightly packed and minimally cleaned commercial airline transport systems leave fliers at high risk for getting sick. From common colds to dangerous pathogens, there are more than a few illnesses for passengers to be wary of. The common cold can have an incubation period of as little as 24 hours, which means that in some cases you may be sick for most of your getaway. These tips can help you stay healthy while you soar through the air, so you don't get sick soon after you arrive at your destination.
Before you board
Part of staying healthy on a plane is planning ahead. Before you even start packing, prepare a few days or a week ahead of your flight with an assortment of vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C and zinc, to keep you healthy and your immune system in top form. Taking vitamins can help to boost your immune system so that it doesn't succumb to the stress of travel. There's no guarantee that a vitamin will help, but it won't hurt, and it's an easy preventive measure to take.
Pack your carry-on with a few easy-to-access essentials that can help you on the plane:
- Hand sanitizer, just in case you come into contact with germs. It is a good idea to use it after you use the plane's restroom, as studies have found that airplane water isn't always clean. After you adjust your seat, use the buttons on the in-flight entertainment system or turn on the light, or perform any other action, sanitize your hands.
- Sanitizing wipes are also a welcome travel companion. You won't need to pack them in your liquids baggie, and they can be used to wipe down the things that you'll come into contact with the most: the seat, the armrest, the tray table and the seat pocket in front of you.
What to do during the flight
In the restroom, use a paper towel to touch any surfaces that you might come into contact with, including the toilet, faucets, and door handle.
If you have to touch your face with your hands, use your sleeve or the back of your hand to avoid contact with germs.
Turn on your air vent to help blow germs and microbes out of your airspace. Planes have compartmentalized ventilation systems so you probably can't get sick if a person in first class sneezes and you're back in coach. But because the system is compartmentalized, you can get sick from a person seated near you. Different germs have different distances that they can travel from the carrier, via sneeze, cough, etc. To protect yourself from getting infected by a nearby sick passenger, turn on the air vent just enough that you can feel it on your lap to blow any airborne diseases out of harm's way.
What to avoid
On a plane you may have a little space, but there is plenty to avoid. Try to avoid sitting near passengers who are sick whenever possible, if you can choose your seat. Because this can be difficult to do on a full flight, or flight with assigned seating, avoid touching things as much as possible, and be sure to sanitize the area and yourself if you do need to touch something. People that are at high risk of catching the flu may want to wear a face mask. A face mask, worn correctly and along with frequent hand washing, can help reduce the risk of some diseases. For most people, they are unnecessary and hand washing and sanitizing is enough.
Avoid the pillows, blankets and other accessories that the airline provides. Instead, bring your own travel pillow and a blanket or use a rolled up coat or jacket for comfort.
Keep in mind that just because you're traveling in a space loaded with the potential for illness, you won't get sick with any certainty. Instead of worrying about getting sick or thinking that it is inevitable, consider altering your actions on a plane by using these tips to help reduce your risk of catching something.